When the sky is rent asunder, when the stars scatter and the oceans roll together, when the graves are hurled about, each soul shall know what it has done and what it has failed to do.

The Koran, 82:1 (Penguin Classics, 5th Edition as translated by N.J. Dawood)

The roar of the engine drowns out everything in the still of the night air. The wind whistles even beneath his helmet as he brings the bike to a stop next to his father's old Impala. The blonde form slouching against the bonnet hauls himself upright.

'It's about time you showed up' Dean grumbles as Sam unbuckles his helmet and offers his brother a smirk. He grabs his rucksack off the back, running a hand through his mop of dark hair.

'Awww D, anyone would have thought you'd missed me?'

Dean offers a smirk rivalling his younger brothers', acts like he's about to cuff him around the head but instead grabs him by the neck and pulls him into a tight embrace. 'I missed you kid. How's College?'

'Alright' Sam drawls patting his older brother on the back, revelling in the familiar smell of leather, of security, of warmth. 'Delusional if you ask me but I always thought it was a strange route to take.'

'Can't disobey the person who gave you life Sammy.'

'Don't I know it.' Sam mutters, 'I got time for a smoke? They back any time soon?'

Dean rolls his eyes in a fatherly fashion, hits Sam on the arm as they head across the gravel 'You still doing that? They'll be the death of you man.'

Sam smiles, looks away so Dean can't see into his eyes for a moment. 'Yeah, these are what are going to kill me…' he drawls, because he knows fine well what's going to kill him and it has shit to do with the white stick of nicotine in his hand, long fingers reach into his jeans for his worn lighter. The orange glow from the cigarette lights up Dean's face and Sam notes for the first time the beginnings of a beard covering his brother's face. 'What's this?' He smirks, reaching to trace a hand over Dean's chin. 'You going for the santa claus look?'

'Hey Trisha likes the look.'

'Didn't you know Dean, Trish's blind or something, must have been to marry you.'

Dean grabs Sam in a headlock and then pulls the cigarette from his brother's lips and takes a drag of his own. 'Or something…' He releases Sam takes in his little brother's form as he leans against the bar steps. 'You got skinny kid.'

Sam sighs, because it doesn't matter how old he gets Dean's always going to treat him like an errant seven year old who let go of his hand to cross the road. 'I got toned' he corrects, 'six out of seven days at the gym'll do that to you.'

Dean nods, pride shining from his eyes as bright as his wedding ring in the glittering darkness. 'You still keeping up the training?'

'Of course.'

'We can't afford to have you slacking off you know?'

'I know.'

Sam tilts his head back, closes his eyes, takes a long drag and then wrenches them open to watch the smoke ring rise into the air.

He hands the smoke to his brother and they stand for a moment in contented silence.

'So where are they?'

'On the way back…there's a banshee up in Sacramento.'

'And you didn't go with them?' Sam is unsuccessful in keeping the surprise from his voice.

Dean puffs out a laugh 'she wouldn't let me.' He brings his voice two pitches higher 'Someone has to meet Sammy, Dean, you'd only try and protect us and get yourself killed.'

Sam laughs and it's with a suddenness that scares him that the whiteness consumes him after that and the cigarette falls as if in slow motion from his fingers.

He wakes to the familiar sight of Dean's pale face, they're in a room and Sam waits for the typical nausea to subside before pushing himself up on his elbows.

Dean stares, the naked fear slowly disappearing from his eyes. He takes his hand from Sam's cheek. 'Shit Sammy…'

He gets a weak reply in return. 'It's just Sam.'

'They're getting worse aren't they?'

'I've had worse than that man…'

'You were siezing Sam. You're telling me that's how they are now?'

'Not all the time, a couple a times I woke up in the hospital once, was out of it a while, Jessica was fucking terrified.'

Dean's eyes widen 'Sam…'

Sam tries at humor, because truth is this has been happening since he was four years old and it's getting kind of tiring now, 'Everyone has their cross to bear right…'

'This is one fucking big cross little brother.'

'I'm handling it.'

'If handling it's passing out and letting someone drag your ass to help is handling it then yeah.'

Sam's up on his feet then, 'fuck you Dean.'

Dean knows this dance, he's familiar with it, they've been doing the same one for a while now. He thinks maybe he should be the one to end it, but Sam would never let him so he sighs and places a hand on his brother's shoulder.

'What did you see man? What's coming Sammy?'

Sam's hands are braced against the motel dresser and his head is hung low, raking in air. Dean can still feel him trembling. Hell he's still shaky himself, hauling your baby brother's unconscious convulsing ass to a motel suite would do that to a guy.

'Sam…' he tries again. 'I asked what's coming man.'

Sam's dark head raises itself and Dean looks into the mirror sees the eyes he knows as well as his own. Dean doesn't like the shadowed hopelessness he sees there. And he fucking hates that he can't see inside of Sammy's head sometimes.

Sam meets his gaze and his answer is no more comforting than the shaking beneath Dean's fingers, 'the end I think Dean. I think it's the end.'

They're in a corner booth, the seat is red and sticky beneath them and Sam can feel the leather even through the denim of his jeans. The smoky air around them comforts him and he holds two fingers up to a waitress and she nods her understanding before heading to the liquor. Dean toys with his glass and Sam feels a smug sort of satisfaction as he downs his own tequila in one.

'So you want to elaborate on 'the end'. I mean, don't get me wrong, it sounds like such an optimistic phrase but I guess I want to know if you mean ride off into the sunset end, or Butch and Sundance end cause in all honesty Sammy I could do without either.'

Sam smiles wryly and bites what's left of the lemon slice on his glass. He barely registers the sour flavour, too busy wondering how to answer, how best to lie. He supposes he should lie really, what good would it do Dean to know that this 'end' was not only going to be the beginning of the apocalypse but the end of his brother before the true end even began.

He needs to warn them about the end of the world though, he owes them that much.

'That's why I called you guys…' Sam begins uncertainty creeping into his deep voice. 'It's major Dean. It's end of the world sort of end. Less Butch and Sundance more Independence Day only less of the aliens and more of the demons.'

Dean takes an olive between his teeth. Chews on the cocktail stick. 'Oh.'


'I don't suppose anywhere in that freaky head of yours there was us saving the day?'

'I didn't see that far.'

'You didn't see that far?' Dean raises his voice, 'How far exactly DID you see Sammy?'

The waitress flings the two shot glasses and two more beers before them and Dean frowns and shakes his head, pushing his second shot glass back onto the tray. Sam raises an eyebrow and takes it from the tray, what's another shot in the scheme of things? The waitress chews on a cherry stem and grins appreciatively at Sam before sticking her tongue out and showing him the perfect knot.

Sam bites his lip and returns the smile, but her face is quickly replaced with Jess's and he looks away. Feels like shit.

She bristles at the shun and turns back to the bar.

Dean watches in silence. 'Sammy are you alright man? I mean what the hell was that about? Jessica ok?'

Fucking peachy. Sam thinks downing his tequila consecutively.

'I'm sure she's fine.'

'And just what the hell is that supposed to mean?'


'Well shouldn't you know, as her boyfriend if she's ok?'

'If I was still her boyfriend yeah.'

Truth was Sam did know Jess was ok, he'd rode his bike to her friends' dorm where she was staying every night for the past few weeks, staring outside her window, beneath the corner of Oakwood and Orange avenue, just to check. Sure when she'd finally emerged her eyes had been red and swollen, but she wasn't completely strung out with worry, she wasn't failing her classes worrying about her freaky boyfriend.

'Sammy what happened?'

'We're through.'

'Did you tell her the truth?' Dean asks and Sam can't stomach the sympathy that oozes from his big brother's lips.

'Fuck no. Of course I didn't Dean.'

Dean shakes his head, takes a tug of his beer, his eyes concerned, exasperated. Sam will never tell Jess the truth. Not like Dean told Trisha. Maybe if he'd been Dean he would have. But he was Sam. And he was constantly overcome with visions of death and destruction and pain, he was a fucking beacon for the paranormal, and there was no fucking way he was going to risk Jess knowing and giving the demons one more reason to come after her.

Since meeting Jessica Lee Moore, in freshmen year, Jessica Lee Moore of the blonde curls and the wide smile, and the tiny mole between her eyes Sam's life had become a whole fucking lot more messed up.

He'd had to fight off three poltergeists, two shadow demons and an incubus since he met Jessica, and he'd killed all, without her knowledge, while she was out, at class, or at work, or the library, all except one. The last demon actually got Jessica hospitalised. Sam had returned to their apartment one night to find the woman he loved being drained of her life force by an Incubus. The knives Dean had given him for his eight birthday made short work of the bastard but Sam's hands had been shaking and his heart had threatened to burst from his chest as he'd hauled Jess to the emergency room.

'You must have fallen and hit your head or something' he told her when she woke, 'I found you on the floor.' She'd stared at the tears streaming down his cheeks and took them to be relief, not the guilt they were. She'd kissed each away tenderly and he'd held her hand as she slept and he'd been so god damned sure he was going to walk away this time. He wouldn't…couldn't…be a part of her life if it was going to get her killed in the end.

He'd been halfway out the door when she'd woken briefly, 'don't leave me Sam Winchester.'

He never had been able to deny her anything.

Sometimes he swore Jess could read his mind. Sometimes that was a comforting thought, sometimes it was terrifying. No one should have to see what he saw.

She asked him, constantly.

'What's going on inside that head of yours Sam?'

Death, fire, pain…

'Why won't you tell me what you dream about?'

You couldn't even imagine…

'It can't always be lollypops and candy canes Sam.'

How about fire and blood Jess? How about ceilings and blood and darkness?

The visions had been getting steadily worse for the last three years. Worse ranging from blood soaked pillows where he'd woken up with nosebleeds, to mind consuming migraines making it hard to breathe, to actual unconsciousness and seizures. None of the outcomes were too fun for Sam.

Nor, it seemed for Jess.

Sam woke up this final time to her tear stained face, eyes distraught, hand clasped in his, 'they say there's nothing on the CT scan Sam, oh god, you were unconscious, I didn't know what to do…you were so still…god Sam I thought I'd lost you.'

She wanted to call his family, she'd met them before when they'd come up to Stanford to visit. In their most normal attire, weapons hidden safely in the cars, blood cleaned from limbs, hair groomed to the typical family of a Stanford student look.

Sam had stopped her.

He didn't need precognitive powers to know everyone would be fussing over him. Nor did he need those same powers to know the doctors weren't going to find anything on the scans, nor that this would happen again and again and that Jess would run herself into the ground worrying about him.

The next day he finished it.

One look in her eyes by his hospital bed told him what he already feared, Jessica Lee Moore was completely and utterly in love with Sam Winchester and that was the worst thing in the world that could ever happen to her.

Sam Winchester wouldn't put Jessica Moore in any more danger. Sam Winchester wouldn't let her waste her final year worrying about him, getting him to a hospital, Sam Winchester wouldn't spend his final year lying to her.

For Sam Winchester had seen his own death and Jessica Lee Moore was beneath him as he burned.

So he ended it.

He was cruel. The only way to keep her away. To keep her from trying to come back to him.

'I don't love you, never did' , 'it was just sex', 'it won't last'. He tried them all.

'I love you Sam. I love you.'

And he wasn't lying when he looked into her eyes 'and there's nothing I hate more in this world.'

She couldn't love him. She'd only die in the end. And he'd see it. One of them would burn away and the other would slowly die watching them.

So she'd left. In tears, mascara streaming down her cheeks, ring Sam had given her flung to the carpet, door slamming.

And he'd taken their apartment apart with a flick of his hand because he wasn't stupid enough to use his 45 even in the mood he'd been in, and who knew telekinesis could come in handy at times. He smashed every picture, every vase, every photo, every memory and then he'd sunk to the floor, cried like he hadn't done since he was four, had another vision and woke to the pieces of his and Jess's Halloween party photo.

He went through the motions for the next few days, class, home, check on Jess, then the pieces of the premonition began to come to light. It started with fire and ended with fire, wasn't that the fucking beautiful irony of his life. A huge fire he wasn't sure where, he saw his family stood before it, he saw demons emerging from the flames. He saw blood, death, the sky raining fire, and then it ended with him leaving his family behind walking somewhere. Ending up on the ceiling. Blood dripping. And the last thing he saw were the fires consuming him.

Sam knew he was going to die on fire. Had always known it deep down inside. He didn't care about himself. But he knew he had to warn his family, so they'd be somehow prepared. Maybe it was just the end for him. Not for all of them. Maybe with his warning they could somehow stop it.

The morning he woke to the image of his body on fire the blood soaked his pillow. He dabbed at his nose, shoved his clothes, his wallet, his knives, the ripped photograph of him and Jess and his cell into a rucksack and signed out of Stanford.

Sam had never been one to leave people hanging. In some fucking messed up way he didn't want the administration to have to worry when he never showed up anymore. He withdrew himself from the College he'd found so much of himself at and headed to Jessica's friends' one last time. She wasn't there.

He broke in, drew a circle of salt around her bed, placed protection charms in the windows, cats eye shells beneath the drawers. He almost lost it when he found the same Halloween picture he had whole and clear beside her bed. He made for the window as he heard voices returning, turning back only once.

I will always love you.

'God…sorry, I am such a klutz, first day at College and I already knock down the most beautiful girl I've ever seen, way to go. I'm so sorry.'

'Well good to bump into you "so sorry", I'm Jess.'

'Hah. Sorry, no, Sam. I'm Sam.'

'Jess, nice to meet you Sam.'

'Yeah, you too.'

Walking back to the bike, he climbed on and looked up at the window, surprised and at the same time not to see her staring down at him.

There was so much he wanted to say. Needed to say.

I love you. I'm sorry. Being the first.

He pulled his helmet on, raised a hand, he waved.

Bye Jess.

She was crying. Confusion and pain mirrored in her eyes even from so high above him but she raised her palm.

Goodbye Sam.

He put the bike in gear, gunned the engine, left Stanford and Jess behind.

Dean stares at him. Waiting for an explanation.

Sam doesn't know what to say, he traces the water trail on the table before him, 'I couldn't save her Dean. Not in the end. I would have lost her. I couldn't survive that.'

'Sammy…we all lose someone sometimes man, you don't think you should try living before you let yourself be consumed by death?'

'She's in love with me Dean.'

'She's a smart girl.'

'She's a stupid girl.'

'You don't love her back?'

'God don't you get it, I love her too much, I love her so god damn much man. I love her enough to…to…'


'Let her go.'

Dean places his hand over his little brothers'. 'Oh Sam.'

'I had to let her go.'

The bar door swings open at that moment and a blonde woman walks in. Sam and Dean turn to her.

She smiles a dazzling smile in their direction and then moves towards the bar. Her black trench coat trails behind her and her short cropped hair has traces of ash in it. Barely noticeable. She commands attention, this woman, merely by walking into a room. She oozes a confidence, a 'don't fuck with me world' aura. A leering, overweight, balding man props himself at the bar and attempts to buy her a drink. She politely declines, Sam and Dean stiffen in their seats, he decides to push his luck and he's on the floor in seconds. 'If you'd wanted to get me on my back honey you could have just asked' he drawls.

Wrong move.

She offers a swift right hook to his cheek, and the bar is in silence as she stands. 'I think I ordered a beer.' She says firmly. The noise of the bar picks up again as everyone minds their own business. She takes the beer and heads over to their table.

Dean looks up at her with admiration, Sam looks at her with love. She takes a long swig of her beer 'where's my wife?' Dean asks.

'Unloading the car.'

She moves over to stand before Sam and stares at him for a long moment. 'You know if you ever fancy getting together with that guy you have my blessing.' Sam teases, 'Just don't expect us to call him Dad.'

Mary Winchester raises a sardonic eyebrow 'Oh please Sammy, you know I could do better than that.' Then she places her palms on either side of Sam's face and her mouth breaks into the biggest smile. 'My baby boy…' then she's kissing him on the forehead, and it's so gentle and perfect and so typically mom that Sam forgets about the apocalypse and his fiery death and even Jessica as he presses his face to his mom's shoulder.

'Hi mom.'

She runs her hands over his hair, 'Hi Sammy, you need a haircut.'

Dean grins 'that's what I meant to tell you Sammy.'

Sam grins, it's easy to fall back into the baby of the family role when he's around his mom and his big brother. 'Thanks you guys.'

Mary draws back reluctantly and turns to Dean a minute. 'Hi honey.' She tells him offering her eldest a kiss to the cheek. Dean smiles.

'Hey. You sort the Banshee?'

Mary slides into the booth next to Sam placing her arm around his waist, 'hah piece of cake my boy.'

Sam takes a moment to study his mom as she regales them with stories of how she and Trisha destroyed the Banshee. She looks great. Trim and tough and so very youthful. No one would guess she was in her late forties. Sam hopes Dean keeps her occupied for a little while so the attention doesn't fall immediately on him.

His mother shared some of Sam's abilities, sure it was on a much smaller scale but she had definite psychic tendencies, her entire bloodline bar Dean (for reasons Sam didn't know why) did and Sam feared as soon as she looked deeply enough into his eyes she'd see what he had, and that would surely destroy her more than her husband's early death would.

Sam's father died when he was just months old, he was pinned to the ceiling and burned alive, and by the time his mother heard him scream it was too late to save him. She'd flung Sam at Dean, and watched her life burn around her as John Winchester died on the ceiling of their old house in Lawrence. Sam's nursery. Sam's crib.

Sam never had known quite how to deal with that.

Mary had turned to Missouri a fellow psychic and the elder woman had informed her of the evil of the world. Mary had raised her boys through interstates and highways, in dark alleys and solitary deserts, wherever evil dwelled the Winchesters could be found. Sam and Dean had both resented their lives at times. Their mother constantly battled these forces with the energy of one possessed, she was careful with them though, always so very careful and once when she'd slipped and Dean had ended up in hospital with a concussion she'd sobbed at his bedside and asked her boys if they wanted her to give up, because she would in a minute. For them she'd do anything.

Sam had been 8, Dean 12 they'd both known that if they stopped their mother hunting she'd have no purpose anymore. She needed revenge. They never asked her to give up. They never asked. And they never really complained again.

As Sam's visions progressed they'd become a useful indicator as to where to head to next, always bringing them closer to the evil they were hoping to find. But Mary hated the toll they took on her baby boy. As did Dean. Sam was always held close, over protected, he was the baby. He always would be. And the fear in his eyes as he witnessed another murder, demonic force, the way he'd stop stock still and squeeze his little eyes shut terrified his family more than they did the four year old.

But he learned to control them. And when he turned 18 Mary told him to go to College, to get a normal life, or as normal as he could, Dean had Trisha, Sam needed normal too.

'But what about you Mom? Don't you deserve normal too?'

She'd got that sad smile she did every time she talked about his deceased father 'I had normal for twenty five years Sammy, I had your father for seven of those wonderful years…it's your turn now.'

'I don't need Stanford.'

'You're smart Sammy. Go, try it, it doesn't work, you come back to me, but try it my boy. There's so much you can be. So much.'

His mom had been wrong.

He could never be more than Sam Winchester. He couldn't be boyfriend, or lover, or husband. Because then Sam would die. Or Jess would and he wasn't sure if that wouldn't kill him first.


He looks up to see his mom and Dean staring at him. 'Huh?'

'I asked why you called, sweetheart.' His mom asks, concern drawing her brows together, her hand covers his. Deans' eyes rest on his.

Think carefully about your answer Sam. They don't need to know it all.

'Something's coming Mom. Something pretty bad.'

Mary nods. Her blond hair falls slightly into her eyes and when she looks up at Sam she looks so much like Dean it's crazy. 'I felt as much.'

'How much did you feel?'

Her eyes take in both her boys. 'I felt a serious darkness coming, pain and…' she swallows audibly, voice barely a whisper, 'and fire.'

His mom had always hated fire, ever since it took their father, she had to get motel rooms with electric ovens, she had only hit Sam once and it was a sharp backhand across his fourteen year old face when she'd found him lighting up a cigarette outside of his school at the time. Sam knew even then it was less about the cigarette than her son's close proximity to a flame.

God he couldn't tell her. She couldn't know how it was going to end for him.

'Is that why you called? What did you see Sammy?'

Sam swallows deeply 'pretty much the same, except I saw you guys standing before a wall of fire, these demons coming out of it, I couldn't make them out too clearly but I'm thinking shadow demons or something similar.' He rubs his forehead subconsciously remembering the pain, waking up in the hospital.

'Are the migraines still bad sweetie?' His mom asks.

'He's been having seizures.' Dean pipes up, Mary's head whips around so fast Sam's afraid she'll get whiplash.


Sam glares across the table.

Thanks Dean.

'I'm alright mom.'

'If alright is passing out and fitting in my arms less than an hour ago is fine, he's telling the truth.' Dean growls out, worry laced with irritation.

'Shut up jerk.' Sam shouts angrily.

'Make me bitch.'

'Language Dean.' His mom says fiercely and Dean ducks his head. She looks back at Sam. 'Sammy? Honey, I want you to tell me exactly how bad they've been and if you leave anything out I'll ground your ass for a month.'

Sam laughs, 'I'm 21.'

'And I'm your mother which means I can ground you till you die.'

Sam winces at the word choice. Then he tells her everything.

Turns out everything is pretty far from all that's happened. He leaves out Jess and he leaves out the part about him dying, and the part about him leaving college but everything else he's totally upfront about.

'The hospital?' His mom panics when he finishes the story.

'Pulse thready…get a CT Scan quick…what's happening…IV now this kid's BP is dangerously high…'

'It was nothing.' He lies. 'Just a fainting spell.'

'Jess must have been terrified.' Mary whispers her own eyes filled with worry. 'Poor girl…how's she taking this?'

Jess liked his mom, and the feeling was mutual, except Mary liked Jessica Lee Moore, all American girl next door, Jess liked Mary Winchester, attorney at law based in Seattle. Jessica had loved an illusion. Mary had loved a dream.

'We're not together anymore.' Sam growls darkly bringing his beer up to his lips.

Mary's eyebrows shoot up 'What?'

'Do I really have to say it again?'

He knows without looking that his mom and Dean are exchanging concerned glances.

'It's alright, it was my decision. My choice.'

'But baby, you two were so perfect for each other.'

'She was perfect…she deserves better.'

'Oh Sam that's not…'

'Don't even start alright mom. Jess deserves the best, she deserves someone who won't put her in danger every day, she deserves someone who doesn't have to lie through his teeth every time he says he's being honest with her.'

'You don't have to lie…'

Sam slams his hand down on the table, anger and alcohol clouding his judgement. 'Don't I mom? I'm going to lose her in the end, like you lost Dad, like Dean will probably lose Trisha…we're going to be alone in the end Mom. You know it as well as I do, and I won't lose Jessica, I can't. So I let her go.'

He looks up in silence to see Dean pale and upset. 'Dean…god I'm sorry. I didn't mean it, I know you won't lose Trisha…you…'

'Did you see something Sammy?' Dean asks fear clinging to his throat like the unwanted barsmoke.

'No, no, nothing like that man I swear. And I really think it's great that you guys found each other. But I can't be like you. I'm different.'

'Live every moment as it comes Sam, that's what we're doing man.'

'I know, exactly. And I'll do that, but I won't ask the same of Jessica.'

His mom pierces him with a gaze, 'you said Jessica deserves the best-'

'She does.'

'You're the best Sammy.'

Sam laughs 'oh Mom. I'm so far from what's best for her it's ridiculous.'

Dean shakes his head, 'and you don't think that what's best for her, is her choice to make?'

'Not when it'll wind up getting her killed no.'

'I'd do it all again.' Mary offers quietly tracing a hand down his arm gently, 'I wouldn't do anything different, even if it meant losing your father again, I had him for seven wonderful years. I got you beautiful boys from him. I'd do it again in a heartbeat Sammy.'

Sam's heard enough, he slams his empty bottle down, fed up of the input, the decisions, the freaking weighing in on his life, 'then I'm sorry mom but you're crazy. Don't start that whole tis better to have loved and lost crap with me, I read Romeo and Juliet at college, I know how it ends. And it can end better than that for Jessica. It can end better. And now it will.'

He's grabbing the room keys, up and out of the booth and headed towards the door before Dean or Mary can even move.

He barrels into Trisha as he flings open the bar door. She's all smiles and long braided hair and concealed weapons, 'Sammy? Hey kiddo, how are you?'

'Fine', Sam mutters but he clings to his sister-in-law for a moment 'I just need some air ok Trish?'

'Sam? Are you alright?'

He tears towards his bike, swings himself onto the saddle, leaves his helmet on the dusty ground, guns it and starts the engine. He's well aware that drinking and driving is the action of idiots, but he figures driving across fields and verges isn't the same as highways and overpopulated streets. He knows this isn't how he's going to die. He has no fear of crashing. That's the thing about knowing the future, you can push your boundaries. It makes you reckless, it makes you more than a little dangerous. He pushes the accelerator, pulls the throttle. The bike races faster and faster, fragments of dust and road and wind tear at his eyes,




The stars are out tonight, as clear as day, the California air is clear and black. Somewhere across this same state is Jessica…and somewhere across this plane is an upcoming apocalypse.

He stops before he reaches 100.

Pulls the motorbike into a verge and leans against it, staring up at the sky.

At times in the last few days he wants nothing more than to run back and hold Jessica, to just hold her, make love to her as the rain of fire falls from the sky, mould his body to hers, entwine her fingers between his, and let the world cave in around them. But the practical part of him knows that maybe the apocalypse can be stopped, maybe his family will be the ones to stop it, but the end will still remain the same for him, he'd still die burning over Jess's body. And that would kill her as swiftly and as deeply as any apocalypse ever could.

His world began and would end in fire, that wouldn't be the end for Jessica. She'd be an old woman, surrounded by her grandchildren, peaceful in bed. He held onto that when he got so damned close to the sign for Stanford. Held onto it and it turned him around again.

Selfish Sam, so selfish.

He could be less selfish for her.

He could let her go.

He watches the stars for a long, long time. Sprawls completely on the grass, on his back, looking up. The sky is peaceful for now. He knows it won't last long. The stars twinkle and he hears Jess's voice.

'That's Cassiopeia see her there…and that's Perseus. He was her husband you know. Don't you think they're beautiful.'

He hadn't looked at them then, he'd been staring at her, 'yeah…beautiful.'

Now he looked. He traced them all, the constellations beneath his finger. Wondered if he had the power to reach.

He had learned to move things with his hands when he was fourteen. It came in handy when he felt like flinging Dean against the wall in a brotherly spat. Even handier around pissed off demons.

Didn't stretch to galaxies away though. The constellations stayed still, the stars remained rooted to the spot, the world went right on spinning in its typical course.

Wasn't everything just so insignificant in the end? When he lay on his back and looked up at the stars light years away, at the planets so unexplained, at the universe so vast and deep and endless, he couldn't help but realise the insignificance of it all.

He wasn't sure if it was the drink or the night air or just the emotion in his chest getting to him but he opened his mouth and started yelling like an idiot.

'I am Sam Winchester!' He screamed, 'And I am insignificant!'

God if only.

If only he was insignificant to go marry his girl, to be normal to be average Joe, to be Mr Nobody.

He laughs.

'I…' he shouts again, louder this time 'am SAM WINCHESTER, and I am INSIGNIFICANT.'

'You think you might want to be insignificant a little quieter and…you know…somewhere else Sammy?'

Dean's voice startles him deeply and he looks up and sees the blurry outlines of his brother and sister in law above him. The Impala looms in the darkness behind him, bonnet lit in all its fiery glory. For a moment Sam sees flames reflected in those headlights and he smiles.

She knows.

She knows what's coming.

Dean reaches for his hand and he grasps it firmly in his own. His brother, his dependable, loving, supportive big brother. Always there. So strong and fearless, and real. Sam thinks Dean will always be more of a man than him. And he's proud of that. He wishes he could be that fearless or that selfish. To go after love and keep hold of it.

Dean hauls him to his feet and Trish gives him an appraising look before turning to her husband 'you got him?'

'I got him.' Dean replies.

And Sam is struck suddenly by the strangest déjà vu. But it's gone again when Trish leans up on tiptoes and kisses Dean on the nose. 'See ya back at the ranch' she grins, turns to Sam 'keep out of trouble brat.' Sam salutes her wildly and she jumps on his bike, roaring off down the highway.

Dean turns sad eyes on his younger brother. 'You need to take a walk and get it out of your system or are you promising me you won't puke in my car.'

'I make no apologies' Sam slurs 'I make no promises.'

'Oh lord' Dean murmurs, 'How did you even drive here without killing yourself?'

'Bikes won't kill me.' Sam mutters.

'Oh yeah?' Dean hauls him along slowly. 'You sure about that buddy boy?'

Sam sighs deeply '100'.

Dean grins, 'you'd better hope so.' He switches positions so one hand is round Sam's waist and the other steadying his chest as he wobbles forward. 'You scared the crap out of Mom Sammy, and me too, you can't go off on your bike when you've been drinking kiddo.'

Sam stills in the roadside. He turns to Dean and grips his shoulders. 'You have to fight it Dean. Promise me you'll fight it.'

'Sam what are you talking about man?'

'This thing that's coming, the end, you can beat it man, I know you can. If anyone can you and mom can.'

'Pffff' Dean puffs out half amused, half serious. 'You're the one with the powers Sammy. I'm just the regular old muscle.'

Sam shakes his head vigorously and soon regrets it as the world tilts on its axis. 'No don't you see Dean, I see things happening, you're the one who can stop them.'

Dean smiles, a genuine smile then at the complete faith his little brother has in him, that he could save the world if he wanted to. 'That's me a real life superhero'.

Sam's eyes are oddly bright as he grips Dean's neck and brings his forehead to his so they are touching. 'Dean…' he breathes quietly 'you're fucking superman.'

Dean struggles to keep the emotion from his own voice, 'without the tights though right, cause I couldn't be dealing with all that lyrca.'

Sam smiles back 'without the tights.'

And they walk for a long way down the highway. Dean resolves to pick up the Impala in the morning and promises Sammy a beating to remind him of the sacrifice. Sam informs Dean that they're old enough now that Sam can use his powers and throw Dean into a wall and mom can't ground them. Dean laughs and tells him they're never too old for mom to ground them. Dean's arm is draped across his shoulders and Sam feels content to lean into his brother's protective embrace as they half stumble, half walk down the deserted road. He knows the end is soon. And he also knows that before that end there'll be nights he'll think about Jess and how much he misses her, there'll be nights that he'll wonder if things would have been different if their Dad was alive, there are nights he'll wake up to visions and fits and fire. But for now he forgets it all. The end isn't now on this highway. So he walks with his brother at his side and smiles into the darkness.

'I am Sam Winchester, and I am insignificant.'

'So this apocalypse huh Sammy?' Dean breaks the silence, 'you were totally kidding about that right?'

Sam snorts with laughter because that is so very Dean, trying to be funny, and succeeding. And he closes his eyes to the images of the fiery rain, and the demons and the blood, and his body burning on the ceiling and he smirks at Dean 'I gotcha didn't I?'

Dean knows he's playing along, but he carries on the joke. And Sam keeps right on pretending with him. Because for now. It's not the end. And next week or the week after or the week after that the sky will be raining fire and he will be dead, but right now he's alive and Dean needs reassurance, so he squeezes his brother's arm, takes another glance at the universe above and pretends along with him.

Sometimes it's easier that way.